Its been on my blog topic list to do a post on my favorite essential oils for soapmaking. I just haven’t gotten around to doing it but I noticed that my soaping buddy, Angela of Alegna Soap did one recently of her favorites. So I took it as a kick in the pants to get it done! Check out Angela’s favorite’s here. Also, if you’re in the Long Island area, take a class from her! She is one of the sweetest people I know and is an excellent teacher.
When I started my soapmaking journey I would make soap with fragrance oils such as honeysuckle, fresh cut grass, kumquat and because I lived in Texas, yellow rose of Texas, Bluebonnet, etc. I had a cabinet loaded down with a ridiculous amount of FO’s. I was a FO Ho! (Sound familiar?)
I also made soap with essential oils. I used lavender, tea tree, peppermint, sweet orange, lemongrass and a few more. These were the soaps that you would find in my shower; not the FO scented soaps that I sold at the farmer’s market.
Nowadays, I don’t use fragrance oils at all. My nose just doesn’t like them. Using fragrance oils or essential oils is simply a matter of preference and a matter of what your target customer prefers.
It can sometimes be tricky to get essential oil blends to stick in soap. You definitely have to have well-rounded blends that have strong and sticky base notes.
For an interesting article on essential oils in cold process soap, check out this post by Robert Tisserand and Kevin Dunn, Essential Oil in Soap, An Interview with Kevin Dunn. It examines which chemicals in essential oils react with the lye. And just because an essential oil is affected by lye doesn’t mean you can’t use it; it just means that it will smell different in soap than in the bottle.
One question that I get asked a lot is do the aromatherapy benefits of essentials make it through saponification? I always tell people that if you can smell it, you can receive aromatherapy benefits. It might have changed from the original oil after going through the saponification, but there are still benefits.
In the article above in the comments, Robert Tisserand states, “But, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that essential oils in soap are active. The heat may cause some loss of essential oil molecules through evaporation, but it should not cause any significant chemical changes. The contact with alkali will cause some chemical changes, and of course that’s what Kevin describes in the interview. These changes may or may not result in an alteration of therapeutic properties. That depends on which properties you are measuring and also on which constituents you are talking about, so there isn’t a simple answer. Except perhaps to say that in MOST instances essential oils do in fact retain their therapeutic action!”
Here are my favorites.
My Top 10 Essential Oils for Cold Process Soap
Lavender – I love lavender in soap. Lavender is balancing, relaxing and if you sell soap, your customers will be asking for it. It blends with so many other essential oils and sticks really well even on its own.
Peppermint – Peppermint is another oil that is great on its own or blends well with other oils. Peppermint is great for all year round but is especially popular during the holidays. I also like an essential oil called cornmint (wild mint). It is similar to peppermint but is sweeter to my nose. I always have either peppermint or cornmint in my arsenal of EO’s.
Sweet Orange 10 Fold – Who doesn’t like the smell of fresh squeezed oranges? Folded citrus oils seem to have more lasting power in soap. Read more about folded oils at David Fisher’s website here.
Litsea Cubeba – Litsea (also known as May Chang) is my personal favorite essential oil. It is lemon smelling, bright and uplifting. It gives my soap that citrus smell without disappearing as quickly as some other citrus oils. It comes from an evergreen tree.
Vanilla Oleoresin – This thick gooey luscious essential oil is made by using a solvent extraction. The solvent is then removed leaving behind the essential oil and resin. This stuff is divine. It is a little more expensive, but a little goes a long way in blends. We used to get ours from Rainbow Meadow, but they’ve been out for a bit. If you know another source, let me know! Aussie Soap Supplies has it.
Tea Tree – Tea tree is one of the most useful essential oils out there. I use it on scrapes and bites and other skin issues. Tea tree is anti-bacterial and makes for a great acne soap. It blends well with many other essential oils.
Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil – Cinnamon is nice to have in your essential oil arsenal. It is nice on its own but also blends well with florals, other spices and citrus.
Lemongrass – Enough said.
Just kidding. But really, who doesn’t like lemongrass? It is bright, refreshing, stimulating and great as a natural insect repellent. I love 100% lemongrass soap but it blends nicely with other oils.
Patchouli – I know, I know. Patchouli is one of those oils that you either LOVE or HATE. With a passion. It is earthy and heavy, rich and dark. If you get patchouli, get aged patchouli. Patchouli is one of those oils that gets better with time. Put 4 oz. into a dark amber jar and hide it somewhere in your house. Find it in a few years. Even if you don’t like patchouli on its own, it is a must have for blending. It anchors and creates depth and drama.
Anise – Anise smells just like licorice. I HATE licorice…but I love anise in soap. It blends so well with peppermint and lavender, creating aromas that are indescribable.
Where do I get my oils? Read this post. Here are some of my favorite blends when using these oils.
Essential Oil Blends for Cold process Soap
These blends are given in percentages. To use, simply determine the full amount of essential oil for your recipe and multiply that by each oil in a blend. For example:
If your recipe calls for 60 grams of essential oil and you want to use a blend of lavender (50%) and litsea (50%), multiply 60 * .5 (50%) for each. You will use 30 grams of lavender and 30 grams of litsea in your soap.
Lavender – 50%
Litsea – 50%
Peppermint – 20%
Tea Tree – 20%
Lavender – 60%
Sweet Orange – 60%
Vanilla Oleoresin – 20%
Cinnamon Leaf – 10%
Patchouli – 10%
Lavender – 60%
Anise – 40%
Lavender – 50%
Peppermint – 50%
Sweet Orange – 30%
Lavender – 40%
Patchouli – 10%
Peppermint – 10%
Vanilla – 10%
Lemongrass – 25%
Litsea – 25%
Sweet Orange – 40%
Patchouli – 10%
Lemongrass – 100%
Lavender – 100%
Do you want more essential oil blends for cold process soap? Check out my eBook, Lovin’ Soap Studio Cold Process Recipe Book, which features 64 essential oil blends!
What are you favorite essential oils in soap?
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Thank you for this!
Where do you find a natural vanilla suitable for cold process? The only one I’ve found has alcohol in it … I love to use one thank you!
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Thank you for this article! My favorite EO is ylang-ylang. I love the “hippy” scent!
I just love Lemongrass and Litsea May, and for another dimension I add 25% Lime! Lime is a superhero all by itself too!! Love love love
Mm i have two combinations that i love!! Peppermint, cinnamon and anise and the second is Rosemary, eucaliptus and tea tree forma a fresh option. Love your site.. i tried the pumpkin salt bar and o really love it. Thanks for sharing
Hi Amanda – I am still new to soaping – dont know when I will be able to class myself as a soaper – but so far I have found my favourite blend of essential oils are orange and spearmint – it seems to develop a gorgeous creamy orange perfume – I am slowly making blends using essential oils – I have tried fragrance oils but so many have vanillin in them and my soaps have gone tan to brown over time and I dont like that look so I have found I have had to get a small folder – print out on A5 my blends and pop them into it or I lose them so easily – but I do have one question that I cant find an answer to and that is – what would be the percentage of rose absolute to use in cp soap – and yes I know it is soooooo expensive but I would just like to know and what is the percentage of jasmine that I would use – sometime google just doesnt have the answers
Ruda (rue), peppermint, rosemary…ect
Try drying out herbs, grind to a fine powder. Much cheaper and the smell lasts much longer.
My favorite EO blend that I have made since my beginning soapmaking days is Peppermint / Tea Tree. But I will admit my need for further experimentation. Thanks so much for sharing!!!
Can you share what percentages of each you use? I recently purchased a activated charcoal facial mask that contains peppermint and tea tree and the smell is amazing. I’d like to incorporate that in maybe shampoo bars or soap bars but have no idea how much of each I should use.
Can you share what percentage you use of each? I recently purchased a charcoal face mask scented with peppermint and tea tree EO and the smell is amazing. I’d like to incorporate that in maybe a shampoo bar or soap bar but have no idea how much of each I should use. Your reply is greatly appreciated.
My favourite essential oil is lavender
My favorite EO at the moment is Ylang Ylang.
I love spearmint , tea tree and patchouli!
I’m just now getting into essential oil blends and I’m absolutely loving It! Can’t wait to give these blends a try.
I wish there was a way to know how much Eugenol is in a particular Cinnamon Leaf EO before buying it.
Check out New Directions Aromatics for Essential Oils. They have the best Material Safety Data Sheets with more information on their oils than any other company I’ve found.
Lemongrass is my #1, followed by peppermint, sweet orange, and jasmine.
My favorite EO is coffee with an hint of vanilla….
Are u kidding? Coffee? I have an esspresso I would like to throw out. You really lik that better than a rose geranium EO?
patchouli bergamot and a hint of citrus oh my- and Black Tie
Love Lavender. Just made Lavender & Orange Blossom- smells divine!
I love lavender and peppermint! They work so nicely in CP soap!
how can i make lemon perfume which can be used in soap?
I am relatively new with soap making. And this article is very informative. Someone recommended “patchouli essential oil”. Is it OK to use patchouli Essential oil only? Can you help me regarding the recommended ratio per mixture? Thanks!
Yes You can use only Patchouli EO
Hi! Could you advise me on which fragrances smell “flowery and soapy.” A lot of soaps kind of smell “crisp”” and more like men’s cologne but I’m going for the feminine, flowery soapy smell. Any favorite combinations? Thanks!!
I like the citrus eos. Lime, orange, and grapefruit.
Hi Amanda, you are spot on with the list of must have Essential oils, in which I have most of them, but I must say a couple more I would add to that list would be Almond, yum and Grapefruit alone isn’t that great but paired with Lavender and oh my! And of course my favorite is Rose Geranium from Wellington fragrances.
Just about to begin this soap addiction a little intimidated but we will see how it turns out. I am wanting a more natural soap. The fewer chemicals the better.
I love litsea and lavender 50 / 50 mix.
I love litsea and lavender 50/50 mix.
Peppermint in a recipe with raw cocoa butter is a favourite. Such a fresh shower soap.
Love grapefruit, sweet orange, patchouli, rose geranium, and bergamot. I’m allergic to lavender, otherwise I would use it in everything.
Next on my list to try is lemongrass and cedar (maybe together?).
I’m allergic to lavender that is synthetic. Pure lavender does not break me out in hives. Crazy!
I haven’t made soap for a few years but am trying to start back up again. From memory though, my favorites were Tea Tree (not for the aroma), grapefruit (my citrus go to), lavender, rosemary, geranium (and hasn’t that gotten expensive!), and peppermint. But you must have eucalyptus, patchouli and some kind of Orange. And lemon, although I think I prefer lemongrass when all is said and done.
I like lavender essential oil the most. It is very versatile.
light on the Lemongrass and Tea Tree made Made with olive oil..
I love a nice blend of lemon and eucalyptus! Smells wonderful!
Sweet Orange, Himalayan Cedarwood, Amyris, Benzoin
My favorite blend is peppermint and patchouli. It’s a fresh blend with a little bit of hippie. But I love patchouli by itself, too.
I adore Lavender
I love lemon myrtle, a little goes a long way.
Where do you get that? Sounds interesting
I bought my Lemon Myrtle at Ingredients to Die For. They had the best price at the time.
Love them all! 🙂
I love lavender, peppermint and lemongrass! I have looked all over to find where I can find affordable and pure essential oils and have found only one place– Bulk Apothecary (http://www.bulkapothecary.com/). Does anyone know of anywhere else I could find pure essential oils that are affordable on a teacher’s budget?
I like using http://www.camdengrey.com/. I hope you find what works for you!
Liberty Naturals is a good source also.
New Direction Aromatics
It is hard to pick a favorite EO, but the Orange 10X from Bramble Berry is yummy. I like to use essential oils in HP soap because it is added after saponification. I also use it in MP to make a small bar to keep in the kitchen for a vehetable wash. Thanks for your wonderful soap recipes!
I love patchouli and lavender. The lavender seems to balance out the musty smell of patchouli.
Could you let me know the ratio of these two please.
Could you tell me what ratio of lavender and patchouli you use. Thanks
Hi Amanda, I love peppermint and lavender EO. Those are my favorite =)
Hello I am new in soap making and has just made 3-4 soaps only but my favorite essential oil is all citric essential oils .
Oh Yummo! I love your blends, and get super dee duper excited when your share more! I love love love Bergamot with Lavender❤️❤️❤️
One of my all-time favorites is cedar wood ….. It’s a great base note, and blends well with everything! And I do like bay to add spiciness or litsea to add citrus notes to a blend – but both are pretty strong, so I keep the proportions low.
I also love some of the florals like lavender, jasmine (I use a dilute, not the absolute, and it lasts fairly well) and a new favourite, camomile (also using a dilute).
It’s really hard to choose just a few, because each EO adds something unique to a blend ….. and my goal is always to match the EO blend to the inspiration and colours of the soap.
I have to say I am LOVING Lemon Verbena and Mint at the moment. Spring is on the way and it is such a fresh pick me up smell.
Love lavender! It’s timeless and lovely but I do love clove and orange scents mixed together. Yum! Makes me wanna go make some soap now.
There are so many wonderful blends of essential oils! I love lavender & bergamot and people always gravitate to my rosemary, peppermint, bergamot blend. Another blend is geranium, orange, litsea, and clary sage. As you can tell I have a hard time choosing. 🙂
Hi Amanda, I am learning a lot from you about blending. I love lavender, patchouli (but it has gotten so pricey), and Lemongrass (Guatamalan). I love those individually but one of my best blends was Rosemary and Sweet Orange in my gardener’s soap. Keep all the good info coming!
Thank you for all the wonderful essential oil blends suggestions!
Another two absolute must-haves for me are rosmary and geranium. And I would probably have benozin oleoresin instead of vanilla. I know it’s not the same, but the price of vanilla is just prohibitive for me.
By the way, Aroma-zone in France also carries vanilla oleoresin. I purchased a tiny 5ml. bottle from them time ago to be used in solid perfumes, the scent was amazing, but it was hardly pourable and therefore a lot of product got wasted trying to measure the right amount needed. Maybe the one from Aussie Soap Supplies is more pourable.
My personal favourite is patchouli, but the household fave is lemongrass – whenever a batch of this is curing, everyone coming inside comments on how lovely the whole house smells.
I love rosemary with tea tree oil,,,,yummy!!
I am still new to soap making, but I do love tea tree and lavender.
Hi, I love patchouli and grapefruit. Love your site just found it last night and you post today was exactly what I was looking for!
Thanks so much for this article it’s really helpful to me! I’m a die-hard patchouli lover but I also love Eucalyptus mixed with rosemary and lavender. IT mellows out so nicely together! Thanks for your links in this article too. Appreciate all that you do! ❤
I like lavender in blends (esp. with patchouli and a citrus), but I love lavendin on its own.
I love lavender and rosemary together. It’s the combo that I use in my shampoo bars.
Thanks for the shout out! Love you too!
P.S. I’ll be trying some of your blends. They look great!
My favorite is pink grapefruit. I love it in everything, diapers, lotions, scrubs, cream I’m a new soaper and loving every catch I make.
I love lavender too! Sweet orange and spearmint are another great combination.
I love lemon myrtle, and use a lot of it. It has the brightness of lemon but with more depth, and it lasts beautifully in soap and in lotions. Best of all, it’s Australian! Students, tourists and other visitors to the country love to buy handmade soaps with an authentic local fragrance.
I’m very new to soap making and there are some wonderful fragrances essential oils out there, but my favorite is Almond. It makes me happy all day long. How great to get amazing ideas, recipes and tips from you. You are loved in my household!
My favorite is pink sands. Ssssssh don’t tell on me lol